Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Truth Be Told

The truth behind some of today's most prevalent myths about birth control and sex.

Myth: Oral and Manual Sex Are Completely Safe Alternatives

Teens have mixed opinions about these acts. Some view them as a way to get the benefits of sex without any of the risks. But plenty of others end up worried that thing like oral sex could leave them pregnant. Both are wrong.

The Truth: Oral, manual, and anal sex aren't risk-free. All these alternatives to sex, particularly anal, can still spread STDs. To reduce the risk of infection with anal sex, use condoms. For oral sex you can use condoms or dental dams. On the other hand, there isn't much of a chance these acts could get you pregnant. Pregnancy is only possible if semen gets on your vaginal area (even the outside).

Myth: You Can't Get Pregnant On Your Period

The Truth: It's not common, but it is possible. Women are fertile when they're ovulating—that is, when their body has released a mature egg cell into their reproductive tract. Periods flush the egg away, so it's true that, technically, there's nothing for sperm to fertilize until another egg is released. However, sperm can live in the vagina for several days—anywhere from five to seven, depending on who you ask. If you have unprotected sex on your period and there are still sperm around when you start ovulating again,
pregnancy can happen.

Myth: Douching or Jumping Up and Down After Sex Will Prevent Pregnancy

The Truth: If that were the case, women who wanted to get pregnant would never be able to stand up. Women's bodies have evolved to keep at least some of the semen from falling out when they stand; there's actually a sort of indentation inside the vagina that holds semen in place after sex. Jumping up and down will not knock it all out. Douching—no matter what you douche with—may just push the sperm into your uterus. If you've had unprotected sex in the last five days and are worried about getting pregnant, the best option is emergency contraception. You can get it through your doctor or through a Planned Parenthood health center.

Myth: Guys Who Drink Mountain Dew Can't Get You Pregnant

The Truth: This myth is associated with long-standing urban legends about yellow dye No. 5. But, fact is, that yellow dye has been in use for nearly 100 years and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Suffice to say, it doesn't lower sperm count. Even if it did, a man with a low sperm count still might have as many as 20 million of the little swimmers in every cubic centimeter of semen. And there's at least two to four cc of semen every time a man ejaculates. That's still plenty of chances to get pregnant.

Myth: Only Teenagers Have Unplanned Pregnancies

The Truth: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy says that the birthrate among women age 15 to 19 has dropped by 35 percent since 1991. Today, unintended pregnancies are common among women in their late 40s. The problem: Many older women assume they're too old to get pregnant before they actually are. Some also mistake pre-menopausal symptoms for menopause itself and stop using protection, only to discover that they had at least one viable egg left.

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